- Justin Hunter
I've always been intrigued by the idea of National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), but I could never bring myself to participate. I received my MFA in Creative Writing in 2017, and it took me an entire year to write the book that would become my thesis. I'm a fast writer, but I couldn't wrap my head around completing a vomit draft novel in 30 days. I wrote another novel after my MFA program in the morning before work and in the evenings after my kids went to bed. That novel took me eight months to complete the first draft. In 2020, I published a collection of short stories with a small indie press. So, it took me three years to finish enough short stories to make up a decent-sized collection.
All this to say that a minimum of 50,000 words in a month felt impossible.
And yet, I am still intrigued by the idea. I need to be working on multiple things at once. It's the way my brain works. When my oldest son was born, it wasn't enough that I was working full time and taking care of a baby, I decided to start blogging. For four years, I would wake up at 4am every morning so I could crank out a few articles before going to work. Later, I decided to enroll in an MFA program that required me to write and write frequently. As with blogging, writing stories and critiques for my MFA program took up most of my spare time. But it was writing, and I loved (and still do love) writing.
In 2017, as I was finishing up my MFA program, I taught myself to code. By this point, I had been working in tech for the last 5 years, so it felt natural to finally learn to code. Plus, I had taught myself to code so that I could build a writing app. What no one ever tells you about learning to code is that it's both a super power and an all consuming presence. All of my free time shifted from writing prose to writing code. This isn't a bad thing, necessarily. This transition allowed me to start two companies and eventually land at Pinata where I head up product. But it did mean less creative writing.
In the five years since I learned to code, I may have written five total short stories. I poked around at my two novels off an on, never really focusing enough to improve them. I built a writing feedback app, thinking this would jumpstart my writing. And for a while, it did. I submitted new short stories to the groups on the app for feedback, but it felt more like a bootstrapping mechanism rather than a true creative writing pursuit.
Despite my fading creative writing output, the lure of storytelling has remained. I joined an NFT project with a strong storytelling element. I have leveraged my writing skills and storytelling capabilities to help drive content for Pinata. I have built short video games centered around creative stories. I've toyed with experimental storytelling in many forms. But at the end of the day, I was still building tech and not writing.
So, with November bearing down on us, the time feels right for me to finally try my hand at NaNoWriMo. My default is to always fill my spare time with tech and coding. I think this used to come from not being fulfilled at worked. But now, I'm very fulfilled. So, in an effort to jumpstart my creative writing again, I'm participating in NaNoWriMo. I might not succeed. If I do, the output will invariably be horrendous. But by doing something on the side that is unrelated to tech and apps and startups, I feel like I'm freeing up my creative mind.
I'll try to keep active on Twitter throughout the month and try to post updates here along the way. But if you're curious what the novel will be about, you should read my old short story The Nothing here. I've always wanted to extend that world into a full-length novel. No better time than now, right?